3rd February 2021

Amazon wins relief as HC stays Future-Reliance deal

  • The Delhi High Court provided interim relief to e-commerce major Amazon by directing Future Retail Limited (FRL) to maintain status quo with regard to the transfer of its retail assets to Reliance Retail.
  • Justice J.R. Midha also said he was of the prima facie view that an order of the emergency arbitrator (EA) at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) restraining FRL from taking any steps to transfer its retail assets was enforceable in India.

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRE (SIAC)

  • SIAC is a not-for-profit international arbitration organisation based in Singapore, which administers arbitrations under its own rules of arbitration and the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.
  • It was established on 1 July 1991 and is located at Maxwell Chambers, formerly the Customs House.
  • SIAC arbitration awards have been enforced in many jurisdictions including Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam, amongst other New York Convention signatories.
  • SIAC is a global arbitral institution providing case management services to parties from all over the world.

 

Awareness campaign planned to dispel ‘rumours’ on NPR, Census

  • The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that “right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census”.
  • The first phase of house listing and housing census and the National Population Register (NPR) was to be rolled out in some States on April 1 last year but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

National Register of Citizens

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register of all Indian citizens whose creation is mandated by the 2003 amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • Its purpose is to document all the legal citizens of India so that the illegal immigrants can be identified and deported.
  • It has been implemented for the state of Assam starting in 2013–2014. The Government of India plans to implement it for the rest of the country in 2021.

CENSUS OF INDIA:

  • The decennial Census of India has been conducted 15 times, as of 2011. While it has been undertaken every 10 years, beginning in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, the first complete census was taken in 1881.
  • Post-1949, it has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • All the censuses since 1951 were conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act.
  • The last census was held in 2011, whilst the next will be held in 2021. Historically, there has been a long time between the collection of data and dissemination of data.

NATIONAL SOCIAL REGISTRY

The National Social Registry will either be a single, searchable Aadhaar-seeded database, or “a cluster of multiple databases” that use Aadhaar numbers to integrate religion, caste, income, property, education, Civil status, or marital status, employment, disability and family-tree data of each single citizen. it’ll automatically update itself in real-time.
DISPELLING FEAR

  1. A 360- degree approach for communicating the right and clear message on the NPR has been planned to be followed.
  2. All kinds of media, i.e. social media, AV, digital, outdoor, print and word of mouth publicity tools are part of the planned media strategy.
  3. Right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census 2021.
  4. The “demographic and other particulars of each family and individual were to be updated/collected during the exercise of update of NPR” and “no document is to be collected during this exercise”.
  5. As per the provisions contained in Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948, all individual level information collected in Census are confidential.
  6. In Census, only aggregated data are released at various administrative levels. Questionnaires for Census along with that of NPR have been tested at Pre-test conducted successfully across the country.
  7. It has been clarified at various levels in Government time and again that till now no decision has been taken to create National Register of Indian citizen.

 

ECT fiasco: Indian envoy meets Gotabaya, Mahinda

  • In a flurry of meetings a day after Sri Lanka backed out of an agreement with India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, Indian High Commissioner met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, PM Mahinda R and Foreign Minister.
  • The thrust of the Indian envoy’s message to the Sri Lankan leadership was that Colombo must adhere to its commitments in the tripartite agreement of May 2019.
  • The agreement was to jointly develop the strategic terminal with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) holding a 51% stake and India and Japan holding 49% together.

EAST CONTAINER TERMINAL

  • In 2019, Sri Lanka, Japan and India signed an agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port.
  • The three countries will jointly build the East Container Terminal at the Port of Colombo.
  • As per the agreement the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) retains 100% ownership of the East Container Terminal (ECT), while the Terminal Operations Company is jointly owned,the SLPA
  • Sri Lanka will hold a 51% stake in the project and the joint venture partners will retain 49%.
  • Japan is likely to provide a 40-year soft loan with a 0.1% interest rate, details of India’s contribution to the initiative are awaited.
  • While the ECT, which is in its first stage and awaits upgrade, has a 450-metre-long quay wall and water depth of 18 metres, equipping it to accommodate large vessels, the West Container Terminal (WCT) exists merely as a proposal, with no infrastructure yet.

IMPORTANCE OF THE PROJECT FOR INDIA:

  • Over 70% of the trans-shipment business at the strategically located ECT is linked to India
  • The involvement of India and Japan is the project is being seen as a big development aimed at neutralising the growing influence of China, which has poured money into the South Asian island nation under its mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure plan

MIXED SIGNALS

  • The Indian side conveyed that the signals emanating from Sri Lanka should boost the confidence of potential investors.
  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pledged to draw foreign direct investments to the country, rather than take loans.
  • This is the second instance of Sri Lanka reversing an agreement on a large infrastructure project involving Japan, after the government scrapped the $1.5 billion, Japan-funded Light Rail Transit system last year.
  • The development has sparked alarm in India and Japan, according to diplomatic sources, who said Sri Lanka had neither conveyed its decision, nor offered the alternative proposal to either of the partners.

 

Jal Jeevan Mission to help revive urban waterbodies

  • The urban water supply mission announced in the Budget on Monday will include rejuvenation of waterbodies and 20% of supply from reused water, the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry.
  • In a statement, the Ministry said there was an estimated gap of 2.68 crore urban household tap connections that the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) (JJMU) would seek to bridge in all 4,378 statutory towns.
  • The Mission would also aim to bridge the gap of 2.64 crore sewer connections in the 500 cities under the existing Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).

JAL JEEVAN MISSION

  • Jal Jeevan Mission, is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India.
  • The programme will also implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, rain water harvesting.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission will be based on a community approach to water and will include extensive Information, Education and communication as a key component of the mission.
  • JJM looks to create a jan andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority.
  • The mission would include rejuvenation of water bodies to boost the sustainable freshwater supply and creation of green spaces.
  • JJM(U) will promote circular economy of water through development of city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycle/reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation.
  • The Ministry said 20% of the water demand would be met with reused water. The total expenditure on the mission would be ?2.87 lakh crore over five years.

CHEAPER TECHNOLOGIES:

  • The Ministry said the MetroNeo and MetroLite technologies, which are cheaper than conventional Metros, mentioned in the Budget were already being considered by it.
  • Apart from the Budget announcements, the Ministry said there had been an increase in the funds to urban local bodies as per the 15th Finance Commission’s report.
  • There had been a 78% increase, from ?87,143 crore in the 14th Finance Commission period to ?1,55,628 crore in the 15th Finance Commission’s period.
  • It said the Finance Commission had allocated ?8,000 crore for incubation of eight new cities and that the selection of the cities would be done through a competition for States, for which guidelines would be prepared by it.

ATAL MISSION FOR REJUVENATION AND URBAN TRANSFORMATION (AMRUT)

  • AMRUT was launched by PM in June 2015 with the focus to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation by implementing urban revival projects.
  • Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • The scheme Housing for All by 2022 and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) were launched on the same day.
  • The scheme is dependent with public–private partnership(PPP) model.
  • If required, various other schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Housing for All 2022, along with the local state schemes like that related to water supply and sewerage and other infrastructure related schemes can be linked to AMRUT.

 

Marriage age: SC to study plea to transfer HC cases to itself

  • The Supreme Court decided to examine a plea to transfer to itself cases pending in the Delhi and Rajasthan High Courts to declare a “uniform minimum age” for marriage.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bode issued notice to the government on the plea by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who argued that it was filed to “secure gender justice, gender equality, and dignity of women”.
  • Various laws state that the minimum age to get married should be 18 for women and 21 for men.
  • “Petitioner is compelled to approach this court as more PILs may be filed seeking ‘Uniform Minimum Age of Marriage for Men and Women’.
  • Therefore, to avoid multiplicity of the litigations, the Court may be pleased to transfer these PILs and decide them collectively.
  • It sought a direction to the Union government to remove the anomalies in the minimum age of marriage and make it ‘gender-neutral, religion-neutral and uniform for all citizens’.

WHAT’S THE CHILD MARRIAGE RATE? HOW BIG OF AN ISSUE IS CHILD MARRIAGE?

  • 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday and 7% are married before the age of 15. 4% of boys were married off before their 18th birthday.
  • India has the highest absolute number of women married or in a union before the age of 18 in the world – 15,648,000.
  • Child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas and, in general, rates of child marriage are highest in the central and western parts of India.
  • For instance, child marriage rates in districts of Rajasthan and Bihar range from 47% to 51%.

ARE THERE COUNTRY-SPECIFIC DRIVERS OF CHILD MARRIAGE IN THIS COUNTRY?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.

In India, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Harmful traditional practices: Patriarchal social norms consider that married women and girls belong to their husband’s family and women are generally seen as an economic burden. Girls are expected to be adaptable, docile, hardworking and talented wives. Customary laws based on religion are a major barrier in ending child marriage in India.
  • Control over girls’ sexuality: Until a daughter is married, her chastity is considered to be a marker of her father’s honour. This motivates men to marry off their daughters early. Social pressure to marry at puberty can be enormous within certain castes. Some girls are promised in marriage before they are born in order to “secure” their future. Once they reach puberty, gauna or “send-off” ceremonies take place and they are sent to their husband’s home to commence the married life.
  • Poverty: Child marriage is more common among poorer households, with many families marrying off their daughters to reduce their perceived economic burden. Girls are often married off at a young age because less dowry is expected for younger brides.
  • Level of education: Women with no education are six times more likely to get married than those with ten years education or more. Many families consider girls to be paraya dhan (someone else’s wealth). This means that a girl’s productive capacities benefit her marital family, and educating daughters is therefore seen as less of a priority than educating sons, who are responsible for taking care of their biological parents in old age. Further, given a lack of jobs and employment opportunities, there is a low value for education especially in rural areas where distance and low quality of education are active barriers to girls’ education beyond middle school.
  • Household labour: Girls are often married off at puberty when they are deemed most “productive” and can take care of children and conduct housework. The labour of young brides is central to some rural economies.
  • Violence against girls: Some girls are married off due to lack of safety and fear of violence against women and girls in public spaces, with many cases of being reported every day. However, a 2014 study found that child brides in India are at greater risk of sexual and physical violence within their marital home.
  • Poor law enforcement: There are persisting legal loopholes that fuel impunity for child marriage. There is also low awareness of the law and barriers to access justice for women and girls.

WHAT HAS THIS COUNTRY COMMITTED TO?

  • India has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum.
  • India acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
  • During its 2017 Universal Periodic Review, India agreed to consider recommendations to improve enforcement of legal provisions against child marriage.
  • India is also a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage from 2015 – 2018.
  • Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including India, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, India will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18. However as of 2020, the legal age for boys remains at 21 years.
  • In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, India committed to address all forms of violence against all women and girls, but without mention of child marriage.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING TO ADDRESS THIS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL?

  • A National Action Plan to prevent child marriages was drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013, but it was shelved with the change of government in 2014. Key components included law enforcement, changing mind-sets and social norms, empowering adolescents, quality education and sharing knowledge.
  • India is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years. In 2018, the Global Programme reached almost 2.3 million girls through adolescent groups, which enabled their participation in and access to health information and life skills training.
  • Due to its decentralised governance structure, in recent years there has been more initiatives at the state level with the development of action plans. Whilst some states have taken limited action, Rajasthan, one of the states with the highest prevalence of child marriage, launched a Strategy and Action Plan for the Prevention of Child Marriage in March 2017 and a large-scale advocacy campaign.
  • In 2018, Jharkhand state developed a state action plan to end child marriage and Bihar state launched a Strategy and Action Plan for the Prevention of Child Marriage. As part of it, 101 public servants were trained as Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, and task forces were set up to increase awareness and reporting of cases of child marriage.
  • West Bengal also has a state plan of action for children, which includes child marriage. Other states, including Gujarat and Odisha, consolidated child protection schemes in 2018.
  • Previous governmental schemes have included cash incentives (such as the Dhan Laxmi scheme and the Apni beti apna dhun programme), adolescents’ empowerment programmes (Kishori Shakti Yojana) and awareness-raising to encourage behaviour change related to child marriage.

WHAT IS THE MINIMUM LEGAL FRAMEWORK AROUND MARRIAGE?

  • According to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 the minimum legal age of marriage in India is 18 years for girls with no exceptions. For boys, the legal age of marriage is 21.
  • There have been a number of court cases in recent years where petitioners have argued that the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act do not apply to Muslims as marriages between Muslims are governed by Muslim Personal Law under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court of India indicated that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 has priority over personal laws.

 

Granted Rs 8,000 crore, govt looks at 8 new cities

The 15th Finance Commission has recommended a grant of Rs 8,000 crore to incubate eight new cities, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
OUTGROWTH TOWNS:

  • The Finance Commission has given a new window and new thinking. The way the nation is growing, unless we have planned cities, it will all be outgrowth cities. And outgrowth is an inefficient use of the city.
  • 2011 Census had categorised 31.2 percent of India as urban, but only 26 percent of that as statutory towns.
  • This gap of 5 percent of urbanised India – populated by roughly 6 crore people – is living in either census towns or in outgrowth towns.
  • Census towns are towns of over 5,000 people, with a density of more than 400 per sq km, and more than 75 percent of non-farm, male labourers.
  • These towns are still under the panchayat systems, and not municipalities. Outgrowth towns are in the periphery of big cities, also governed by panchayats.

Increased overall funding for ULBs:

  • For cities with more than a million people, roughly Rs 38,000 crore will be distributed based on performance of improvements in air quality, drinking water, sanitation, and solid waste management.
  • For cities with less than 1 million people, roughly Rs 83,000 crore will be distributed in a similar manner.
  • The Finance Commission has also allotted Rs 450 crore to a “shared municipal services” fund where the ministry will help smaller urban bodies with their back-end work such as database maintenance.
  • The ministry made 86 clusters of the smallest urban local bodies (ULBs) which they can help service from afar.
  • The Commission’s overall funds for ULB saw a 78 percent increase over last year – from Rs 87,000 crore to Rs 1.6 lakh crore. Of this, a little over Rs 1.2 lakh crore has been allocated directly to ULBs.
  • Cities will receive funding only when their annual accounts are put in public domain.
  • Also, if a state’s GDP increases, then the city’s property tax should increase by a similar proportion, Mishra said.
  • Even as a state’s GDP is increasing, the urban local bodies are becoming that much weaker. So this condition has been added.
  • In the budget for MoHUA, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), to provide housing for all, was allocated Rs 8,000 crore in 2020-21, but spent Rs 21,000 crore.
  • Continuing the same trend, the allocation in this year’s Budget is Rs 8,000 crore, leading industry experts to deduce that the mission will again have to resort to extra-budgetary resources to finance the bulk of the mission.

NEW SCHEMES:

  • In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a new bus scheme and emphasis on MetroLite and MetroNeo systems in cities.
  • The bus augmentation will focus on cities with a population of over 5 lakh and the state capitals.
  • With a focus on Metros in Tier-II cities such as Gorakhpur, Jammu, Srinagar, Bhiwadi, and Darihera, the goal is to extend India’s Metro lines to 1,000 km, from a current estimate of 700 km.
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